Small Biz Saturday Success Stories

Finding Small Business Saturday Success: Business owners share their best tips

In 2010, the year Small Business Saturday was launched, the event received 1.2 million Facebook likes in one month, and there’s been no shortage of love ever since. In 2011, it was officially recognized by the U.S. Senate. And, like I just mentioned, the event went gangbusters in 2012.

 

Clearly, we’re a country that’s big on small business. But how do companies whose marketing budgets and people power are already stretched thin make the most of an event that’s tapped into the mindsets of millions of U.S. shoppers? According to the business people we asked, the key to Small Business Saturday success is to provide something the big stores often can’t.  While their experience and advice for novices varies, two themes prevail: Personal and local.

 

Incentivizing, Bethlehem-Style

Bethlehem (Pennsylvania, that is) is as good a place as any to kick off the holiday season. It’s known to many as Christmas City, after all, and it’s where Laura Jasorka owns and operates Loose Threads, a boutique located on the hip, young and slightly edgy south side of town. Jasorka’s tip for making the most of Small Business Saturday is to use the occasion to incentivize customers to come back long after the holiday season is over.

 

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“I do specials,” she says. “For every $50 a customer spends she gets a $15 gift certificate. So she comes back or the person she gave it to as a gift comes in and has the opportunity to really like the store and to shop locally.”

 

For last year’s Small Business Saturday, she gave away Loose Threads Dollars, a move she says she took straight out of the big business playbook, and that was quite successful.

 

Paying Homage on George Street

Arcanum, Ohio sits 35 miles northwest of Dayton. In addition to its 2,100 residents, the village is home to All American Clothing, which employs 65 in Ohio and Texas and shipped just over 89,000 U.S.A.-made items last year, a number it’s on track to surpass this year.

 

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Logan Beam is the company’s director of marketing and communications, and his advice is to throw a party. Beams says that offering customers the ability to trace their jeans all the way back to the farmers who grew the cotton has attracted the attention of national media outlets looking for ‘made in America’ stories.

 

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So, for this year’s Small Business Saturday, he’s got a lineup of big names. In addition to Christmas on George Street – which includes Santa and horse-drawn carriages – a Dayton radio station will broadcast live from All American Clothing, with an impressive list of guests calling in that includes Cheers star and small business champion John Ratzenberger; Tim Guraedy, who is better known as “Mountain Man” on A&E’s reality show Duck Dynastyand recording artist Amanda Watkins.

 

Even though there will be items that are marked down, Beam says having a sale is not the main focus of the day. “We’ll be celebrating, paying homage to our local community,” he says. “When people in our community shop with us, they support American workers and keep their dollars local. We think that’s worth celebrating.”

 

For Online Businesses

For businesses that don’t have a brick-and-mortar shop, Megan Turnbow’s advice is to team up with one that does. Turnbow is president and CEO of made-to-measure swimwear retailer Fluid SunwearShe’s co-hosting an event at Vasstra, which is known for its one-of-a-kind pieces and is located in downtown Galveston, Tex., where the forecast for Small Business Saturday calls for clear skies and low 80s.

 

“Don’t let the lack of bricks in your store stop you from being a local shop,” says Turnbow. “Online businesses are local businesses too. You just have to put your back into it and come up with something worthy of a local customer’s time.”

 

At Saturday’s event, Turnbow hopes to help women shift away from negative body images. “Size is just a number,” she says. “I want to help women focus on how they feel in the clothing, rather than the size or the label.” Wine, champagne and fresh fruit will be served.

 

Emphasizing Positive in Portland

In Portland, Ore., small businesses banded together to localize the season with an event called Little Boxes, a two-day citywide shopping event and raffle that coincides with Small Business Saturday. Little Boxes has an iPhone app and was included in the City of Portland’s recent proclamation, which officialy recognizes Small Business Saturday and significance of small companies to the region’s overall economic well being.

 

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Organizer Will Cervarich, who co-owns Betsy and Iya with his wife, Betsy Cross, says an important first step is collaborating throughout your network. “You need at least 20 shops to get an event started,” he says. (Little Boxes has 175 “small box” stores this year.) Outreach is equally important, he says.

 

“We stepped it up and rebranded,” he says. “The budget is tight but it’s important to pay for important elements such as professional design.”  Finally, keep it positive. “I’m not anti-big business,” Cervarich says. “I’m very pro-small business.”

 

Let it Snow

And according to Michelle Aldana, that’s a sentiment that runs deep in Alaska. Aldana is assistant general manager of the Snow City Café in Anchorage, which, by hosting free meals and fundraisers, has prioritized community involvement since its inception in 1998. Even though she’s not formally participating, Aldana does promote Small Business Saturday on the Snow City Café’s Facebook page.

 

"I think it’s important because it’s another way we can highlight community businesses,” she says. “It’s another way to keep it top of mind that the participating businesses are locally owned and operated, and that their profits – like ours – go directly back into the community. It’s important to people in Anchorage.” So is eating, after a long day of shopping in serious winter weather. Aldana recommends the Deadliest Catch, an eggs Benedict dish with a local twist – Alaska King Crab and salmon. It’s popular regardless of the season, she reports, but particularly so this time of year.

 

Your Turn: Do you have any good tips to share that YOU think would be great for Small Business Saturday – or to boost your business any day? Let us know!

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